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Building Community and Creating Repeat Customers in the Fitness Industry

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.


Chrome Cycle

Many entrepreneurs leave the corporate world to find better work-life balance and gain control of how their day to day affects their mental health. Ninette Wassef, owner of Chrome Cycle Studio in Los Angeles, is no exception. As a lawyer, she worked long hours doing intense litigation work, often forgoing lunch and unable to set her own schedule. While she focused on giving her best to her clients, her own wellbeing took a backseat.

The one thing that helped her decompress after work was her regular spin class, which brought so many benefits to her physical and mental health that she decided to make a career change.

“I have been indoor cycling for over 20 years. It’s my other passion, and it just very organically became my second career—opening a business where I wanted to give back to my community that stress relief and that motivation to stay healthy and well while you are in an intense and stressful work environment,” Ninette said.

While spin classes can be intimidating, Ninette said there is something for everyone at Chrome Cycle, and she and her staff work hard to make sure beginners get as much out of the experience as regular riders.

Yelp reviewer Kyle M. heard the hype around spin classes and wanted to try it out. After a lackluster experience at another studio, he went to Chrome on the recommendation of a friend and found a new workout home.

“I felt like Chrome Cycle was one of the first studios that I went to that greeted me, welcomed me really nicely, and remembered my name. I think that was a really big one because when they said my name, I was wondering, how did they know my name? How did they remember me?” Kyle said.

Creating community at her cycle studio is one of the most important things to Ninette. Everyone’s a beginner at some point, after all, but with some care and attention, they can transition to riding like a professional.

“A beginner who walks in, someone like Kyle who’s like, ‘I don’t even know how to set up my bike yet,’ we want to make sure that we keep giving them those tools so that six, seven classes in, he’s now setting up his own bike and he is moved from the extreme side to a little bit over, to be more ingrained in the community of the class,” Ninette said.

“We also want to instantly, from the very beginning, create that sense of comfort. And we’re about a community. So it’s not like you’re just ‘customer A.’ We want every customer who walks in to feel like we see them.”

Just like any sport or hobby, cycling isn’t a perfect fit for every customer that comes in to try a class. Ninette understands this, and if someone chooses to leave a negative review, she addresses them as soon as possible.

“I will reply and ask, ‘How can I make this right? How can I make this better?’ And I also want to make sure that I try to erase that bad taste in your mouth. I can’t make the experience you had better, but I do wanna see… Can I get you back in the door? Can I make your next experience better?”

Sometimes the review might reflect something out of Ninette’s control, and while the feedback might sting, she tries to keep it all in perspective.

“Reviews are scary a lot of times. We’re in this kind of neighborhoody building and people say, “Oh, it’s great there’s free parking. But the building needs work, or it’s a little dilapidated.” I can’t control that. So you’re gonna knock off a star for something like that. I try to take everything with a grain of salt and focus on the reviews that really are just talking about our service.”

She’s happy to say that the things she can control—the classes, the atmosphere, and the service—are the subject of her positive reviews. “It is nice to see an influx of positive reviews and people commenting on the service. We usually get five stars for our friendliness, our community, our vibe. The service that we provide itself, the actual class experience, that means the most.”

Ninette took her passion for exercise and made it a successful business by making it welcoming to newcomers, challenging for regulars, and by paying attention to the feedback she receives in online reviews. Some other tools she uses to make Chrome Cycle successful include:

  • Welcoming new customers. Use multiple touch points, including greeting at the desk and follow-up emails, to make sure customers know they’re valued and that you’d like to see them again at your business.
  • Knowing customers by name creates a sense of belonging. Even if you have to use technology to remember names, making each and every person feel seen and heard will keep them coming back. Consider connecting with them through social media or having a quick chat after their service or shopping experience.
  • Create FOMO (fear of missing out) on social media. Posting behind-the-scenes videos or event photos can excite current and prospective customers about your business. Curate your social media to show them that they won’t want to miss out on what you have to offer.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Ninette and Kyle, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

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Entrepreneurship

Your Company’s Responsible Guide to Staying Profitable in a Recession

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The recent trend of easy money and exorbitant valuations has skidded to a halt amid recent economic volatility. Understandably, many companies rode that wave as long as they could, but in doing so many prioritized growth over sustainability and sound leadership. Layoffs continue to ripple through the tech ecosystem, so employees both in this sector and elsewhere are feeling the consequences.

Having to let go of staff members is all but unavoidable in a company’s lifecycle, but there is always more that can be done to keep businesses afloat while preserving morale. Strategies can include responsible budgetary decision-making, thoughtful and prudent responses to external pressures and transparent dialogue with employees, to name a few. Such actions can help companies remain healthy, productive and profitable, even as they navigate challenging waters.

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This is What You Need in Your 5-Year Marketing Plan

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We’ve all heard the interview question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Marketers routinely take that question and apply it to their marketing strategies. They figure out what they want to achieve and then develop actionable steps to get there. Keep in mind, these plans aren’t designed to be all-encompassing. They serve as a guidebook for different scenarios while getting the team thinking about what they’d like to accomplish long-term.

Your five-year plan is a way to build an overarching metric for how you’re doing — or how you plan to do over the next half-decade. There are many things to consider when building your plan — here are a few to look at carefully:

The 3 key buckets

A successful five-year marketing plan should fixate on three main questions:

  1. What assumptions can you make about the next five years within your company?
  2. What goals do you want to achieve?
  3. What are the metrics you’ll use to measure those goals?

Assumptions are what you think won’t change in the business over the next five years. For example, you might assume that you will continue using particular vendors or that packaging costs will remain stable. From there, you can determine your goals — like boosting sales by 50% or converting 10,000 new customers. The metrics that measure your progress might be units sold or your company’s market share. It’s essential to include both readily-accessible metrics — such as website views — and brand metrics that might be a bit harder to come by, such as the associations your customers have made with your products or company.

Importantly, there’s no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to answering these questions. Every business has its own vision, resources and position, which all influence its marketing strategy. The aim is to develop a plan that will produce the most desirable outcome for you, rather than worrying about what other businesses have the capacity to do.

Related: Use These 5 Steps to Create a Marketing Plan

Narrowing your focus

Just like consumer preferences, marketing tactics are constantly shifting. Social media demonstrates this well. Because social media platforms have skyrocketed over the past two decades, marketers no longer rely solely on traditional platforms such as print or television ads. And even within social media, things aren’t constant. TikTok has become one of the fastest-growing platforms, quickly overtaking Facebook.

With so many options, your marketing plan must keep a narrow focus. For some companies, TikTok doesn’t matter. They can’t yet measure the return they’re getting from the platform, so this isn’t exactly a feasible opportunity. Don’t be tempted to try everything or be everywhere. It’s a matter of isolating what you practically can use to give you the insights that will help you.

Two questions will help focus your strategy:

  • How do your goals compare to last year?
  • What are you striving for (e.g., enhancing the brand vs. increasing brand awareness)?

How you answer those questions will help you identify where and how to focus your efforts so you don’t get lost in a bunch of small, irrelevant tactics.

Using your budget

Most people think of budgets as being stable or hard data — but almost all companies work with unknowns. In reality, the best they can do is come up with an educated guess that seems to make sense – a ballpark range. Because nobody can plan with certainty for every scenario — and because it’s so easy to become overwhelmed with an infinite range of outcomes — it’s advisable to lean on a few key financial assumptions and build a strategy around those.

Once you have a budget figure to work with, create high and low projections for everything you want to do. Let’s say the aim is to get to 50% brand awareness. What would your plan look like if you exceeded that and got to 75%? Alternatively, what would you do if awareness went down to 25%? Creating these high and low projections will let you design a more flexible approach and avoid being caught too off guard.

As you come up with your main scenarios and high-low projections, think about the key internal drivers you’ll need to address next year. Consider the risks, and assess whether you’ll have the data, technology and skills to develop and maintain what you expect to put forward. Keep in mind that it’s more important to pivot when issues come up than to predict what’s going to happen accurately.

Related: 4 Tips for Developing a Marketing Plan That Will Actually Grow Your Business

Paint flexibly within your broad strokes

A five-year marketing plan paints a broad, long-term picture of how you’ll communicate with your audience while giving details about your projected products or services. It includes assumptions and factors that aren’t necessarily static, so you have to approach it with a grain of salt and be ready to shift gears if the plan doesn’t work.

Even so, if you stick to three key buckets (assumptions, goals and metrics), keep your tactical focus narrow and incorporate multiple projections in your budget, you should end up with a strategy that blends the data and flexibility needed to strive in a changing world. Because annual marketing plans need to connect to your long-term marketing vision, let the annual marketing meetings serve as check-in points to keep your longer-term marketing plan relevant and viable.

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Lauren Sánchez Is Heading to Space on a Girls Trip

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Sorry, Jeff — this one is for the girls.


Jeff Spicer / Stringer I Getty Images

The Amazon executive chairman’s girlfriend, a former journalist who collaborates with him on philanthropy, is bringing a girl gang to space

Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend, Lauren Sánchez, said in a new interview with the Wall Street Journal that she planned to take an all-female trip to space with the Amazon founder’s space manufacturing company, Blue Origin.

Five women will join her on the journey.

“It’s going to be women who are making a difference in the world and who are impactful and have a message to send,” she told the outlet.

The mission is set for early 2024, and the passengers’ names will be announced at a later date.

The WSJ’s report was Sánchez’s first solo interview, the outlet noted, since her relationship with Bezos went public in 2019, shortly after his divorce announcement from now ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott.

The interview also talks about Sánchez’s relationship with Bezos and the business advice he’s given her (keeping meetings under an hour, speaking last as a boss).

Sánchez is a former broadcast journalist and a helicopter pilot who founded her own filming company Black Ops Aviation, per Insider.

“Right now, I’m immersing myself in philanthropy and strategic giving,” she told the outlet. She also has a new production company, Adventure & Fellowship.

Bezos and Sánchez also work together on picking the winner for the Bezos Award for Courage & Civility, which was awarded to Dolly Parton in 2022, giving her $100 million to dole out to charities as she pleased.

But don’t expect Bezos to crash the girls’ trip. “He’ll be cheering us all on from the sidelines,” Sánchez said, adding that Bezos is “excited to make this happen with all of these women… He’s very encouraging and excited, and he’s thrilled we’re putting this group together.”

Sánchez’s nonprofit work includes This Is About Humanity, which helps give supplies to kids separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, supporting the Bezos Earth Fund, which fights climate change, and working with the Bezos Academy, a system of free Montessori schools.

Bezos told CNN in an exclusive that aired in mid-November that, like many other billionaires have pledged to do, he would give away most of his money.

Ex-wife Scott, meanwhile, has donated over $14 billion since 2019, much of it coming from the settlement with Bezos.

Bezos has always planned on giving his money away, Sánchez told the outlet.

“Jeff has always told me since I’ve known him that he’s going to give the majority of his money to philanthropy,” she said.

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